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Historical documents

123 Cablegram from Gordon Walker to Australian Government

London, 24 November 1950


Colombo Plan

We have been giving careful consideration here to the question of making public announcement on the extent to which the United Kingdom is able to contribute to the fulfilment of the plan. You will recall that original feeling was that there was some advantage in not disclosing any commitments that Commonwealth Governments were prepared to undertake until we knew more about the probable United States attitude and that the subject was only touched on in very general terms in the report. One reason for this was our desire that the report should not look unduly like a bid for United States aid. Two recent developments have now lead us to the view that real advantage would be gained if Commonwealth Governments could say something more specific on this subject when the report is published.

2. First, our Embassy in Washington have advised us strongly that as the plan is put forward as co-operative effort based on self-help and mutual help within the Commonwealth, public opinion in the United States will fail to understand why the Governments which authorised the report were refusing to say anything about what financial resources they could provide until they know the extent of American support. Further, they emphasise that it will be very difficult for Americans to define their assistance until they have an indication of Commonwealth support. They argue that it would be both unwise and time-wasting to wait on United States lead. The danger is that we may get into position in which Commonwealth waits for United States lead before indication [of]2 contribution while U.S. waits for Commonwealth

3. Second, we have been informed by the U.S. Embassy in London that the State Department have decided to issue statement when report is published commending the plan, drawing attention to the fact that it does not duplicate but rather supplements current U.S. aid projects in the area and that the statement may well go forth and state that U.S. has itself, in the main, large programme of assistance to the area.

4. These developments give us good reason to believe that, provided U.S. public opinion can be satisfied, that the Commonwealth itself is prepared to contribute to the success of the plan to the full extent that its resources permit, and is not merely relying on American generosity, the U.S. Administration will co-operate whole-heartedly in its fulfilment. We feel therefore that there would be great advantage in the United Kingdom Government indicating publicly the extent of their support for the plan concurrently with the publication of their part. Accordingly, Chancellor of Exchequer would propose to make a statement in Parliament on the lines set out in my immediately following telegram3 on the afternoon of 28th November.

[NAA: A462, 587/4]

1 The cablegram was addressed from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to the members of the Consultative Committee.

2 Editorial insert.

3 The draft statement recorded that the United Kingdom would 'support this great and imaginative program to the full extent that our resources permit'; the Government would 'stand behind the British Colonial Territories taking the full extent that external finance is required for their programmes as finally agreed between the Territories and ourselves', and it was estimated that 'in the six years 1951-57 our contribution, including the repayment of sterling balances, may amount to well over �300 million'.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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